Among the several animated features making a big splash at the Berlin Festival this week is The Siren, a highly original pic directed by Sepideh Farsi. The 2D-animated movie offers a beautifully observed look at the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, as seen through the eyes of Omid, a 14-year-old boy who lives in the oil-rich city of Abadan. Produced by Sebastien Onomo, this German-Luxembourg-Beligium project was was written by Javad Djavahery and animated by Zaven Najjar.
As critic Jessica Clang writes in her Variety review of the film, “Much like Marjane Satrapi did with 2007’s Persepolis, Farsi uses animation as a way to set the acutely painful civilian experience of the Iran-Iraq conflict at enough of a remove to make it bearable: From a distance, like a floating overhead angle or a wide cityscape vista, even smoke clouds and flying rubble can acquire a sort of beauty. Farsi uses animation as a way to set the acutely painful civilian experience of the Iran-Iraq conflict at enough of a remove to make it bearable: From a distance, like a floating overhead angle or a wide cityscape vista, even smoke clouds and flying rubble can acquire a sort of beauty.”
Farsi, who was only a high school student in Iran when the war started in 1980, was imprisoned her for her anti-Islamic Regime activities as a teenager. She was able to move to Paris in 1984 to study mathematics, but eventually she was drawn to the visual arts and experimented in photography before making her first short films. Her first feature Dreams of Dust and The Gaze premiered at Rotterdam in 2006.
In an interview with Variety, Farsi said animation enabled her to capture a certain chapter in Iran’s past, although she is banned to visit the country. “Even without me not being able to go back, I thought animation was a richer way of depicting the war era in a more faithful way, paradoxically, than to do it in live action,” the director noted. “Somehow animation allows a certain type of distance. It’s like in photography, for instance, sometimes black and white photography allows a distance that you do not have with color photography.”
Farsi uses a wide variety of Iranian pop, jazz and Western pop music to evoke the right nostalgic mood and universal feelings in her movie. “My intention in choosing this musical mix was to point to different parts of history and different kinds of music in Iran, some of which is forbidden,” she told Variety. “Yes, you can call this a transgression. I made the whole film not thinking about what the reaction of the regime would be, because I know I’m blacklisted. All my films are forbidden in Iran. I cannot go back to Iran and I’ve sincerely gone past that point of thinking about what they would say, or not, long ago.”
Farsi says her goal was to tell this story freely and to show the richness of her home country in a way that filmmakers who live and work there cannot do. “I’ve also had the freedom of saying words that are not allowed, of referring to alcohol, and to politics, just as I’ve done in my other films,” she notes. “The end of the film has hope, and I really, really would like the audience to feel it as a glow of sun for the near future of Iran, because I’m really hoping that we will reach that victory soon.”
The Siren is a Les Films d’Ici production in co-production with Trickstudio Lutterbeck, Special Touch Studios, Rêves d’Eau Prods., Amopix, Les Fées Spéciales, Lunanime, Katuh Studio and BAC Cinema. Paris-based Wild Bunch is handling international sales of the movie.
For more info, visit lesfilmsdici.fr/en/animation/5142-la-sirene.html